The Book of the Jungle of the Baka Pygmies
The Baka have lived for 250,000 years in the equatorial forest, on the banks of the Congo River. They are the oldest human group in the world. More than living in the jungle, they are the jungle. They take care of her like they take care of their body. Everything they need they get from her, but they don't take anything that is not necessary. The forest has been created by Komba, the Elder, so that the Baka have everything they need, but they can only enjoy it on the condition that they take care of it and share it with those who live in it because only those things that are shared are deserved.
This way of conceiving how to be in the world has allowed them to survive for thousands of years, but now the greed of the first world has expelled them from the jungle. The only thing left to them is the stories, the likanó, or advice with which they learned what is needed to survive: listening, caring, sharing and being together.
Here is a likanó that they told us when we arrived at the community of the Baka pygmies:
Written by Ana C. Herreros
Illustrated by Daniel Tornero
Collection: Black series
Size: 24x33 cm
(Price without VAT €23.56)
Project in Cameroon
Thanks to The Book of the Jungle of the Baka Pygmies we collaborate with the Association Zerca y Lejos, which since 2001 has been pursuing social justice and the transformation of society through volunteerism, awareness and international cooperation. They work in Cameroon and Peru, in the accompaniment of vulnerable communities and groups in matters of health, education, food security, gender violence, water and sanitation, with a human rights and gender approach.
With the purchase of this book, you will be collaborating on the educational project that is being developed in the communities of southern Cameroon with the Baka population, which is committed to an inclusive education contributing to the maintenance of their traditional knowledge, a fundamental aspect for cultural reproduction, the recognition of their collective rights and that other cultures can learn from the knowledge that has allowed them to live sustainably in the jungle for many years.
Prologue by Chema Caballero
Ahmadou Hampâte Bâ explains in the first part of his memoirs, collected under the title of Amkullel, the Fulbe child, that one of the main effects of World War I in Africa was to provoke "the first great rupture in the oral transmission of traditional knowledge". The great writer refers to the fact that the French forced thousands of Africans from all their colonies, grouped under the name of Senegalese marksmen (tirailleurs sénégalais), to fight on European soil to defend the interests of the metropolis for four years. This caused the "first great eclipse in oral transmission" of the vast cultural heritage of each of the affected peoples because those who treasured it were not there to pass it on to those who came after.
The isolation in which the Baka people have always lived in the Congo River basin saved them from those military levies. It has not been until recently that they have been forced to abandon their natural habitat and settle along roads and highways. The Baka, who have always lived by collecting what the forest offered them, including fishing and hunting, are now at a disadvantage compared to the people whom they are forced to coexist with: expert ranchers and farmers, who do not see Baka as people, but as animals and therefore they enslave them and force them to work on their farms. The people of the jungle, the children of Komba, the Elder, have been humiliated and are without the tools to face a new reality. The situation has caused many of its members to take refuge in alcoholism. Now, the young people who have studied are trying to restore their stolen dignity and are fighting to be recognized with the same rights as the rest of the people of Cameroon.
Living inside the jungle has allowed the Bakas to keep their cultural legacy intact and to be able to transmit to younger generations all the knowledge and wisdom accumulated over the centuries without interruption and influences from the outside world. One of the main vehicles to transfer that compendium is the story. Today we are offered the opportunity to approach a selection of them in this book that we have before us and that is the result of a fruitful trip to the heart of the Baka territory to get to know these people up close and hear a little about how much they have to tell.
For years I have shared some periods with the Baka from the south of Cameroon and one of the first things they taught me was that they do not live in the jungle, but that they are part of the jungle; they are one more of the elements that are in it, such as animals, plants or spirits.
This equality and coexistence with the rest of the beings that are part of the tropical forest is, perhaps, one of the first things appreciated when reading these pages. The book reflects the ideal world that was the Baka paradise before its members were expelled from it by laws they did not understand. A world where Komba, the supreme god, lives with human beings and listens to them and therefore they are well-provided, where men and animals live in harmony and where the values of friendship, sharing, mutual help and respect for the elderly prevail above all.
The stories shown on these pages are the same ones that can be heard at night when the Baka sit around the fire or during community ceremonies. It is thanks to these stories that the youngest learn about their culture and what has kept their people grounded for so many centuries. And it is this wisdom, passed down from grandparents and parents to grandchildren and children, that gives strength to the younger Baka who are fighting to bring about a new golden age for their people.
Our trip to Cameroon
In November 2019, Ana C. Herreros, Daniel Tornero and Kike Carbajal travelled with Zerca and Lejos to the Baka Pygmy communities of Assok, Bemba II and Doum, which are located in southern Cameroon. There they learned about the educational project with which we collaborated with this book, Daniel Tornero carried out illustration workshops, Ana C. Herreros listened to the likanós and Kike Carbajal immortalized it all in these Photos:
Ana C. Herreros
She was born in León and her grandmother kept quiet stories. So she soon learned to listen to the silence and to love those who have no voice, those who don't tell tales.
So much so that, years later and already an emigrant in Madrid, she began to write a doctoral thesis on the literature of those who neither write nor read. And so, researching the oral tradition, in 1992 she came across oral narration. She started telling stories, and for more than twenty years, she has not been silent. Then her voice filled with ink and she started writing. Her work has been translated into Catalan, French and Mexican. She has made an autistic man speak, a princess sit down to listen to her lecture and 16 6-month-old babies preferred listening to her stories to taking a bottle. Oh, if her grandmother raised her head...
With Libros de las Malas Compañías she has also published the following titles:
He is an illustrator, narrator and teacher, but above all, he is a narrator. He has been with the Jamacuco stage group since the last century, and he likes telling stories so much that he has gone from voice to paper. Now he also paints the parallel universe of the stories using coloured pencils and a brush made of the hair of a child. Whether as a narrator or as a cartoonist, the important thing is that it continues telling.
As an illustrator, he has been working since January 2012 at the Ipad Magazine DON, and since May 2014 he has been the art director, designer and illustrator of the publishing house Libros de las Malas Compañías. He has already published a book, The Skeleton Woman, which has been a finalist for the Extraordinary Prizes for Plastic Arts and Design of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. It has also received the Honorable Mention at the XII Audiovisual Awards of the Directorate General for Equality.
With Libros de las Malas Compañías he has also illustrated the following titles: